A Visit To São Paolo’s Newest Live Space Arca

MRAK1 @damiano alessandri
Afterlife, the event brand by Italian duo Tale Of Us, visited Arca March 10-11 this year. (Picture by Damiano Alessandri)

There’s a new live events building in São Paulo. First opened in 2018 for the 46th edition of São Paulo Fashion Week, it has come a long way.

Arca launches as a building for hire, but soon started promoting and producing its own events, too. That’s because live entertainment company M-S Live came on board in 2020, offering the full spectrum of event planning, production and operation solutions to clients.

The building’s name: Arca. The mission: to attract and host all manner of creative industry, as M-S Live founders Mario Albuquerque and Mauricio Soares told Pollstar sister publication VenuesNow, where the story first appeared.

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M-S Live founders Mario Albuquerque (left) and Mauricio Soares.

Both men share vast event, technology, and real estate experience. International projects Albuquerque has worked on include Tomorrowland Brasil, Electric Zoo, Elrow, Timewarp and Circoloco. He’s also a club founder, including Laroc, and Ame in Valinhos. Soares built a career in technology, real estate, and has worked as a consultant for brands like Nike, GM and Microsoft.

Arca has already hosted brands such as Nike, São Paulo Fashion Week, Boiler Room, music festivals like Time Warp, artists like Charlotte De Witte, Claptone, Peggy Gou, Anjunadeep, Adam Beyer, and more. Arca was also one of seven venues worldwide to host Eric Prydz’s “Holo” show.

Mario Albuquerque said, “Arca already hosted a wide range of events, from a gala dinner for 80 people to electronic music shows with up to 6,400 attendants, from an innovation conference with four stages to a street basketball tournament. It’s a blank canvas for events, an indoor space with a nearly unobstructed area of almost 9,000 square meters and a 16-meter high ceiling.”

Arca’s capacity is 6,400. The central nave is equipped with a grid of trusses with high load capacity of up to 30 tons. The designers didn’t touch the vertical metal panels from the original factory, which can be used creatively for visual communication, scenography and lighting.

Albuquerque said, Arca “was the first of its kind in São Paulo. A brutalist, industrial venue from the 1940’s, repurposed and fully prepared to host world-class events, proudly maintaining its original raw atmosphere and features.”

The former mezzanine has been restored and transformed, and today serves multiple purposes, including as dressing room or production room. There’s ample outdoor space surrounding the venue, dubbed “the Boulevard.” Native species of trees were planted significantly lowering the visual impact of the building – a real show of shades of green, flowers, and fruits.

Electronic music will make up about 25% of the overall program, the rest being dedicated to “a combination of fairs, product launches, conferences, corporate and social events,” according to Albuquerque.

Speaking about the uniqueness of the Brazilian live scene, he explained, “the Brazilian audience is among the most passionate in the world – and São Paulo is no exception. There was a ‘golden era’ of clubs in the city between the late 90’s and early 00’s, but now most of the activity in the scene happens in touring party labels and festivals of different sizes. As we don’t have a very harsh winter, there are events happening throughout the year. We just don’t get that many big-profile international artists between late May and early September because of the summer season in the northern hemisphere.”

As far as ticket pricing was concerned, it was “impossible to talk about Brazil as a single, big, homogeneous market. There is indeed a stark income gap within our society, but there are also huge differences between regions, states and even cities. São Paulo’s metropolitan area comprises over 20 million people and the cost of living here compares to that of cities in Europe and the USA.

“That said, only about 10% of the population actually has purchase power to attend our events, from which around 15-20% look for a more exclusive experience and are willing to pay a premium for it – and there’s the 0,1%, the high-spenders that travel to Ibiza and Tulum every year, and are regulars at the VIP tables.”

And Albuquerque added, “when talking about ticket prices in Brazil, one also has to be aware of the distortions caused by the ‘meia-entrada’ – a law that imposes a 50% discount on tickets sold to students, public school teachers, elderly citizens over the age of 65 and some other groups, up to the limit of 40% of the total tickets.

“That, of course, represents a significant impact on ticket revenue – so the promoters adjusted their pricing framework and got creative in terms of working with third-party promotion teams, special discounts for clients of the sponsors and other tactics to level the field. That is to say that, although the average ticket “list price” is usually higher than that of other international markets, the average ticket price that people actually pay is lower, because of both the ‘meia-entrada’ and other forms of discount.”

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